Massachusetts currently allows for an individual to be committed to a State run facility, against his will, if he is found to be a “Sexually Dangerous Person”. This is a civil commitment meaning the individual is not being accused of committing new criminal offenses or being “punished” for previously committed offenses. If the petition is allowed, a person will be committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center for an indeterminate period of time with the minimum being 1 day and the maximum being life. A SDP commitment process begins by a petition filed at the sole discretion of the District Attorney’s Office. This petition can be filed only days prior to the individual’s end of sentence.
For a SDP petition for commitment to be granted, the government must prove 4 things beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. The individual has been convicted as an adult, juvenile, or youthful offender for a qualifying sex offense,
2. The individual is currently incarcerated,
3. The individual has a mental illness, disorder, or abnormality,
4. That illness, disorder or abnormality affects the person’s behavior to such a degree that the individual is likely to commit a sex offense.
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Chapter 123A: Section 9. Chapter 123A: Section 14.
Petitions for Examination and Discharge
A person committed under the Sexually Dangerous Person statute can file a petition for examination and discharge one time a year. This petition can be filed by the committed person, parents, spouse, children or friend. The department of correction may also file a petition at any time if it believes a person is no longer a sexually dangerous.
The petition must be filed in the Superior Court in which they were committed. At the hearing held pursuant to this section, either the petitioner or the District Attorney may demand a trial by jury.
The court shall order the individual to be examined by two qualified examiners. The qualified examiners shall have access to all records of the person being examined. Unless the trier of fact finds the person remains a sexually dangerous person, it shall order that person to be discharged from the treatment center.
Trial by jury; right to counsel; admissibility of evidence; commitment to treatment; temporary commitments pending disposition of petitions
If the individual named in the petition is scheduled to be released from incarceration at a time prior to the final outcome of the SDP petition, the court may commit the person to the treatment center pending final disposition.
Either the district attorney or the attorney general (by the request of the district attorney) may petition the court for a trial to determine if the individual is a “sexually dangerous person” under the meaning of the applicable statute. This trial shall be by jury unless the person accused waives this right and elects to have a judge serve as the trier of fact. The individual named in the petition shall be held in custody for the duration of the trial. The individual named in the petition shall have the right to any attorney. In addition, the individual named in the petition can utilize experts to conduct an examination on his behalf.
Juvenile and adult criminal records, mental health records and reports of qualified examiners, police reports from previous sex offenses, reports related to the person’s period of incarceration, victim impact statements and any other evidence relevant to whether or not the person is sexually dangerous shall be admissible at trial so long as discovery obligations are met.
At trial, the jury must unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual is a sexually dangerous person. If this is found, the person shall be committed to the treatment center for an indeterminate period of time with the minimum being 1 day and the maximum being the person’s natural life. If the person is a youth, they shall be sent to the department of youth services until 21 years of age and then to the adult treatment center.
Chapter 123A: Section 14.
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